Ukraine’s displaced children settle into new school year
Thanks to the help of UNICEF, 12-year-old Nika will be able to learn face-to-face at school
Twelve-year-old Nika and her family have been forced to move home several times since 2014, when fighting in Ukraine first began. For millions, life has been an ongoing challenge and, for Nika, finding her feet at school has been no exception.
When the war escalated in February 2022, Nika's family spent weeks in a bomb shelter. Nika was terrified. But leaving home in Kramatorsk with its memories, school, friends and climbing classes seemed even more frightening.
Nevertheless, in order to stay safe, the family decided to evacuate to the west of the country, to a village in the Rivnenska region. There, Nika continued lessons at her Kramatorsk school online and finished fourth grade.
Then, in September of that year, her mother found a job in Bucha, so the family was forced to move again. When Nika found out that they were going to live in the city where such horrifying events took place at the beginning of the war, she was afraid that that nightmare could happen again. She enrolled at the local school, where children studied online.
"The most difficult thing was to understand new topics. I had to work with my parents after school to understand them. The program would glitch or the internet connection would be lost and that's it, you don't understand anything.”
Then, thanks to the financial support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the school shelter was restored and equipped, enabling students to return to face-to-face education.
"It really felt strange to come back to school,” says Nika. “I could see teachers and classmates and be friends with them. It is not like seeing them through the screen when you can connect if you want, or don't if you have no desire.”
In winter, the power was cut off almost every day in Ukraine, and air raid sirens often sounded, but still the children went to school.
"When we heard the siren, we would pack our things and go to the shelter,” says Nika. “At first, we did nothing there, as everyone was stressed out and we didn't want to do any tasks. But in the spring, we started to hold lessons in the shelter.”
Nika hopes that the electricity will not cut out so much in the new school year, so she will have more opportunities to study.
“And in September, it will be easier as I will not have to adapt to a new class," she says.
The full-scale war has greatly hampered access to education for some 5.3 million Ukrainian children. Around 4 million of them have been directly affected by the closure of schools. According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, more than 3,200 schools have been damaged and over 300 completely destroyed since the start of the war.
This fall, UNICEF, with the support of the European Union, intends to repair shelters in 80 schools and kindergartens across the country, enabling more than 50,000 girls and boys to go to school in the new year.